How does one photograph a crisis?
Do you capture the long lines to buy food? Do you focus on the wiry bodies of children? Do you zoom into the eyes of its people, desperate for better days?
In Venezuela, a monthly salary will barely buy a couple of pounds of rice or flour. Some people use the defunct bolivares notes to make bracelets, purses, and even origami figures.
What needs to happen in order for money to stop being used as money? How does money get stripped of its exchange value, as the concept is explained by economist Karl Marx? And what are the implications for the people of Venezuela?
With these questions in mind, I went to the Venezuelan border to document their exodus. I found a road lined with packs of men, women, and children (so many children), their faces riddled with chagrin, fear, grief, nostalgia, resignation, and above all, uncertainty.
They call themselves Los Caminantes, loosely translated as the walkers or wayfarers. I joined a group, and trekked with them across 200km from Cucuta to Bucaramanga, arguably one of the toughest stretches on the road leaving Venezuela.
After the trip, I decided to transfer the images of the Caminantes I had met on the road directly onto the defunct currency by using a silver gelatin process. The light sensitive emulsion bonded the images of the migrants to the money: a metaphor for the very cause and consequence of the crisis.
The faces on the currency of bolivar, Miranda, Guicaipuro, Cáceres de Arismendi, Negro Primero… once proudly propping up the richness and success of Venezuela, now look to a generation ejected from their country by hunger and hopelessness. Similarly, the flora and fauna on the reverse side of the bills now reveal a lavish motherland abandoned by its people.
Felipe Jácome is a documentary photographer born in Ecuador. After finishing his studies at the London School of Economics, his work has focused on issues of human mobility and human rights. In 2010, he won the Young Reporter Competition of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Jácome’s photos have appeared in publications such as National Geographic, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy Magazine, The Guardian, VICE Magazine, and CNN. Jácome’s work has been exhibited in London, Geneva, Amsterdam, Quito, La Paz, and Washington DC.
The Embassy of Ecuador in the United States represents the Republic of Ecuador in this country.
Caminantes: The Venezuelan Exodus
Featuring: Felipe Jacome
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